You can call it an obsession if you like, but I am still fascinated by the Shroud of Turin -- the cloth imprinted with the image of a man that some claim to be the burial shroud of Jesus Christ. As I have stated previously, there are good reasons to think that it is real and equally good reasons to think that it's a fake. I personally haven't made up my mind one way or another about the Shroud, for while it is truly a fascinating artifact, if it is ever demonstrated conclusively not to be the actual burial cloth of Jesus it will have absolutely no impact on my faith. Still, the possibility that it is genuine is one of the things that make the Shroud so fascinating.
To many, the inauthenticity of the Shroud was sealed in 1988 when carbon-dating experts ran a test on a small portion of the Shroud and determined that the cloth dated from the 13th or 14th Century. Previously, I noted that physicist Raymond N. Rogers believed that the carbon dating gave an inaccurate date for the shroud because the portion of the Shroud sampled was a rewoven section which would give a false date. Apparently, that argument didn't result in a retesting.
However, according to an article in the Chicago Tribune by Electa Draper entitled Lab agrees to test Shroud of Turin for new theory, a Colorado-based physicist named John Jackson has convinced the lab that performed the original test to re-evaluate its findings. According to the article:
Professor Christopher Ramsey, head of the Oxford University Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, has agreed to test Jackson's hypothesis that contamination by carbon monoxide could throw off radiocarbon dating by more than a millennium.
It is possible, Jackson said, that even minimal contamination of the shroud by environmental carbon monoxide could have skewed the dating by 1,300 years — making it not medieval but contemporaneous with Jesus's life.
Jackson, who must prove a viable pathway for that contamination, is working with Oxford to test samples of linen under the various conditions the shroud has endured, such as outdoor exhibitions and exposure to extreme heat during a 1532 fire.
"Science still has much to tell us about the shroud," said Jackson, a devout Catholic. "If we are dealing with the burial cloth of Christ, it is the witness to the birth of Christianity. But my faith doesn't depend on that outcome."
While I will certainly be interested in the results of these new evaluations, I concur with Jackson when he says that faith doesn't hinge on the authenticity of the Shroud as the actual burial cloth of Jesus. The New Testament doesn't say, "believe in Jesus because we have his burial shroud." It contends that we should believe in Jesus because of the testimony of the witnesses to the fact that he has risen. The Shroud, if it is the burial cloth of Jesus, adds weight to those claims because the image implanted in the Shroud has yet to be explained. As the article further notes,
The shroud is either authentic or a hoax so ingenious that state-of-the-art scientific analysis has yet to explain how it was done,said David Rolfe, director of a new documentary, "Shroud of Turin."
"The shroud is brilliant and unfathomable," Rolfe said.
But the Shroud is not the basis of Christian faith, and if there had never been a Shroud then Christianity would still be what it is.
I look forward to the re-evaluation of the scientific-based dating of the Shroud, and will post any additional information that I come across.